Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 5
 
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
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FIRING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Stephanie Denino fires the puck up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, junior defenseman and assistant captain Denino chipped in two assists as Princeton nipped Yale 3-2. Princeton, which fell to 13-9-1 overall and 10-6 in ECACH play with a 2-1 loss to Brown on Saturday, hosts Colgate (15-9-3 overall, 9-4-3 ECACH) on February 6 and Cornell (11-10-2 overall, 7-7-2 ECACH) on February 7.

With Energetic Denino Setting the Tone, PU Women’s Hockey Aims for Late Surge

Bill Alden

A Dixie Chicks CD was blaring in the locker room of the Princeton University women’s hockey team at Baker Rink last Friday night and the players sang together as they went through their post-game spinning session.

The Tigers had reason to be happy since they had just pulled out a 3-2 win over visiting Yale, pushing their winning streak to six games and keeping pace in the team’s quest to finish in the top four in the ECAC Hockey play.

Junior assistant captain Stephanie Denino summed up the team’s mood as she reflected on the win over the Bulldogs.

“I think everyone is playing with confidence, everyone feels like they are contributing which is a big thing,” said Denino, a Montreal native. “All lines are firing so it’s fun to play.”

Denino helped make it a fun evening for the Tigers as she assisted on a Katherine Dineen goal to give Princeton an early 1-0 lead and then had another helper on Dineen’s game-winning goal in the third period.

“Yale is a team that if you give them a little bit, they’ll take whatever you give them,” said Denino, who didn’t have as much fun a day later as Princeton fell 2-1 to Brown in overtime despite outshooting the Bears 43-12. “We had to take the lead as soon as possible and set the tempo for this game.”

Defenseman Denino and senior running mate Dineen have been setting a good tempo from the blueline for the Tigers.

“We have been playing together since my freshman year; I think they only put us together because our last names were so similar,” said the wisecracking Denino with a chuckle.

“I’d say she is really great at rushing the puck and I like giving it to her. I love playing with her. She’s a very smart defenseman; she makes it really easy.”

Having piled up 11 points this year after scoring a total of seven in her first two seasons, Denino is finding it easier to score as a junior.

“I am quite happy about that; I think it is just my third year,” said Denino, who has two goals and nine assists on the season for Princeton which is now 13-9-1 overall and 10-6 in ECACH play, good for fifth in the league standings.

“You are more composed with the puck. You can take your time and really make the right play. I think before, I would give it up pretty quick. I think this is the year to stir things up.”

In her role as assistant captain, Denino likes to stir things up. “I think I just try to make sure that everyone is in check and ready to go when it is time to go,” said Denino in describing her leadership approach.

“It’s been very easy because we have a lot of leadership from the other classes and younger kids. There are little things that you have to make sure are OK; you have patching up jobs here or there. I think that we have strong character players on this team so that’s not hard.”

With Princeton having won six of its last seven games since a weekend split at then No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth in mid-December, Denino thinks the Tigers are ready to take on anyone.

“I think you know that the teams are starting to notice you and you feed off of that,” said Denino.

“We were ranked ninth, our highest in a while. I think you feed off that momentum and it just helps. It’s like this energy that is in the air. I think the Duluth weekend really picked things up for us and from then on we just knew that we could skate with anyone in any game we wanted.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal certainly notices the energy Denino brings to the table.

“Denino is a vocal leader; she has a lot of spunk,” said Kampersal after the Yale game. “In the first period today she was a one-man show on the breakout.”

Dineen also put on quite a show in the win over Yale. “She is great,” said Kampersal, referring to Dineen, who got Princeton’s lone score in the loss to Brown.

“Not as a coach but as a pure hockey fan, I love watching that kid play. She skates like the wind; she is great on the break outs. She was on it offensively tonight and she is always on it defensively.”

Kampersal liked the way his team got on things in the early stages of the clash with Yale.

“The first five minutes of the game are definitely important,” said Kampersal.

“In this one, it was a little bit of a non-possession in the first five minutes; both teams were just kind of throwing it around. Then I thought we had a really good 10-minute stretch where we scored that first goal. Every time they scored, we responded.”

With Princeton currently one point behind Colgate and earning home ice for the ECACH playoffs, Kampersal is hoping that his team responds well down the stretch.

“It depends; we are a mixture of age and youth,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Colgate (15-9-3 overall, 9-4-3 ECACH) on February 6 and Cornell (11-10-2 overall, 7-7-2 ECACH) on February 7.

“I think we are just trying to pull together and get better each day. You never know. I feel like we can win every game but there is also a chance to maybe not do so well. It’s that even and hopefully we can keep it going our way.”

Denino, for her part, likes the way things are going. “Obviously right now, the Ivies are in reach which is very exciting,” said Denino, referring to the Ivy race in which Dartmouth and Harvard are the co-leaders at 5-2 with Princeton next at 4-3.

“Our senior class is the last to win that. In my first two seasons we have struggled in the first round of the ECAC playoffs and we want to get past that. We are all looking for home ice. I feel really good about this team. Everyone is having a good time which makes it even better.”

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